Bryce Harper isn't in the minor leagues any more, but there are plenty more reinforcements behind him. With this installment of our occasional series looking at the Washington Nationals minor league system, I thought it would help to begin to get to know the various coaches at the minor league levels of the Washington Nationals. Who do the Nationals have out in the fields, preparing The Next Generation for their time in The Show? Today we look at the AAA Coaching Staff.
Tony Beasley, Manager. Nationals fans with good memories may recall that Beasley served as Manager Frank Robinson's Third Base Coach in 2006 here in DC. He served in the same capacity for two seasons in Pittsburgh in 2008-9, once being called upon to sing the National Anthem prior to a game with the Rockies. In addition to his singing talents Beasley has a pretty impressive record as a coach and minor league manager. As a player he put in nine minor league seasons, topping out in AAA. As a 19th round draft pick with the Orioles who was listed at 5'8" and 165 pounds, he seems to have been the poster child for scrappy middle infielder and organizational depth. He did make the Carolina League All-Star team in 1990 and 1991, and after being traded to the Pirates organization for the 1992 season made the Southern League (AA) team All-Star team in 1996. He finished with a .260/.322/.354 BA/OBP/SLG. Although he only had 22 career home runs in his nine seasons, he did have 138 stolen bases (against 59 CS). He transitioned to coaching as a player/coach in 1998 and then started climbing the coaching ladder, going all the way down to the Gulf Coast League as a hitting coach in 1999.
All that has apparently made for a pretty fair manager, as he has never had a losing season and his teams have made the playoffs in all six seasons that he has managed. He was named the Low A Manager of the Year for consecutive seasons by Baseball America in 2002 and 2003, and was the Baseball America AA Manager of the Year in 2004. Beasley guided the Harrisburg Senators to a league-best 80-62 record last year. When Randy Knorr was promoted from Syracuse to be the Nationals' Bench Coach, Beasley was a natural choice for the AAA managing job.
Troy Gingrich, Batting Coach. Like Beasley, Gingrich is a former career minor leaguer; unlike Beasley, Gingrich has spent his entire professional career with the Montreal Expo/Washington Nationals organization. His minor league career ended in 2003 and he barely made it above high A ball (34 games at AA). He is in his ninth season as a coach in the Nationals' farm system. For the last four of those years, Gingrich has mentored the hitters with Washington's Double-A franchise, the Harrisburg Senators. Prior to that stint, Gingrich was the hitting coach at Advanced-A Potomac for three seasons and at Short Season-A Vermont for one campaign. He was the hitting coach in Harrisburg last year, and was brought up along with Beasley to Syracuse. Bonus: Listen to Gingrich talk about why he thinks Bryce Harper is ready for the major leagues.
Additional source: Syracuse Chiefs
Greg Booker, Pitching Coach. Unlike his cohorts in Syracuse, Booker made the majors, pitching for eight years (1983-1990) mostly with the San Diego Padres. He was a starter in the minors, but mostly a relief pitcher (four career starts) in the majors. His career stats are fairly marginal, but he was good enough to make the Padres' post-season roster in 1984 and to pitch in the playoffs and World Series that year. Since his playing days ended Booker has coached in the Indians, Padres and Rockies organizations. Booker is a holdover; this is his third season with the Chiefs. He has big league coaching experience, having served as the Padres' pitching coach from 2001 to 2003. Booker is the son-in-law of former Major League manager Jack McKeon. "Trader Jack" lived up to his nickname in 1989, trading his son-in-law for pitcher Freddie Tolliver.